Special Equipment Required

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Have you ever flipped through a magazine and come across a recipe that calls for a specific implement, pan, or other piece of equipment?

What do you do? Do you turn the page in search of a recipe that uses equipment you already have? Do you find a substitute implement? Or, do you run to the store and get the whatnot? I have done all of the above, and (truthfully) all for a single recipe.

Coeur à la Crème. Decades ago, I saw a recipe in Bon Appétit and wanted to make it. It required a coeur à la crème mold. I was a poor musician, so I turned the page and looked for another recipe. (Note: I saved the recipe for the future.)

The thought of the recipe, however, was stronger than my willpower and I really wanted to make it. What could I substitute for the mold? The issue at hand was that the official molds have holes in the bottom for draining. Nothing else did...

I found a 6-inch round baking tin in the basement of the house I was renting. It had belonged to my landlord’s wife. I asked if I could buy it from him, knowing full well he would give it to me. Which he did.

I took a hammer and nail to it and made my own holey mold. The finished dessert was not coeur-shaped, but it worked great. Eventually, though, I bought the real thing for a Valentine dinner I was having. It has been a favorite dessert ever since...

Recently, I was in an antiques shop and saw a stack of French individual-serving coeur à la crème molds. Oh, did I want them! But at $18 a piece (and they were new!) I told myself I could live without them.

Well, at least until I got home and found myself still obsessing about them. Online I went, and found them for $3 each. They were in hand in 3 days.

So who cares that mine aren’t made in France? They work, and the finished hearts look beautiful on the plate!

I hope you enjoy these individual lemon-lavender hearts. They use the lemon curd I made last week before, and some lavender extract friends Ruth and Jay brought us from Lavender Wind on Whidbey Island.

~ David

Coeur à la Crème au Citron et Lavande
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup lemon curd
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1/2 teaspoon lavender extract (or vanilla, if you don't have lavender)
1 16-ounce bag frozen mixed berries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Chambord or Grand Marnier

Cut four pieces of cheesecloth (triple thickness) about 8 inches square. Rinse well to remove sizing and squeeze to damp-dry. Line four individual coeur à la crème molds and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese on high speed until light and fluffy. Add 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream and beat to lighten the cheese.

Add the lemon curd, confectioner's sugar and lavender extract to the cream cheese mixture and beat to blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.

In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the remaining 1/2 cup of cream until it reaches soft peaks. Fold it into the cheese/lemon mixture until no streaks are visible.

Divide mixture among the four prepared molds and wrap overhanging cheesecloth over the top, pressing down lightly to ensure the mixture if conforming to the mold. Put molds onto a plate to drain (the reason the mold has holes!) and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or over night. (Note: this recipe didn't drain any liquid.)

Make the sauce. Put berries, sugar and liqueur in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 10 minutes. Force the berry mixture through a fine sieve and discard seeds and skins. Refrigerate the sauce until ready to use.

Unmold the coeur onto dessert plates and drizzle sauce around the sides. Decorate with edible flowers and mint leaves.

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